31st Illinois Regiment: Siege of Vicksburg

An Illustration of the Siege of Vicksburg. From the Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.35360/

An Illustration of the Siege of Vicksburg. From the Library of Congress.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.35360/

Click to zoom. Vicksburg battlefield map.

Click to zoom. Vicksburg battlefield map.

March 18th, after forcing the Confederate forces under Gen. Pemberton into Vicksburg, the Union army surrounded the city and began the siege. The men were particularly exhausted and, “slept where they had sat down.” (Morris p. 68) Rations were running low for the Union army, and men noted, “Everything that grunted, squawked, gobbled, or cackled had found its way into the mess pan.” (Morris p. 68) On the 19th and 20th of March 1863, direct assaults on Vicksburg were attempted, leaving Union men dead from the Confederate battery. Reflecting upon the assaults Morris stated, “To reach them [Confederate forces] they [Union forces] must pass over deep gullies, through tangled masses of fallen timber; over zig-zag hill and deep gulches that were of such irregular formation that they seemed to mock at the points of the compass.” (Morris p. 68) General Grant decided to lay a long term siege on the city that went into May and June. Throughout the siege the men of the 31st

A Photograph of the ground works around Vicksburg. From the Library of Congress.  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/det.4a05884/

A Photograph of the ground works around Vicksburg. From the Library of Congress.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/det.4a05884/

Illinois dug deep ditches under fire of the Vicksburg batteries. Over time the ditches came within a few yards of the Fort’s walls, almost connecting with the Confederate entrenchments, and resulting in fierce underground fighting. On July 1st General Pemberton called for a meeting under the white flag. He was met by Gen. Grant, and Gen. Logan, and surrender terms were discussed. At 10 clock on July 4th, 1863 Vicksburg was surrendered. The Confederates had lost a total of 60,000 men. 42,000 were taken as prisoners, 12,000 were killed and 6,000 were stragglers. The Union forces total losses did not exceed 10,000. (Morris p.78) The 31st Illinois had taken a lead role in one of the greatest Union victories of the war.